The abandoned island of Gunkanjima

This isolated island in Nagasaki is commonly known as “Gunkan Island”. It used to be 320m long to south and north, and 120m long to east and west, but became 3 times bigger when it was reclamated in 1897. This island was a coal mine, and there was about 5000 populations at its peak. It was closed in 1974, and became a desert island.

Gunkan Island

What is “Gunkan Island”that was designated as the world heritage?

Look at this island. It looks like as if a huge warship or castle. It is commonly called “Gunkan island”in Nagasaki Prefecture. On July this year, this island was designated as the world heritage including its industries. This island is now an abandoned ruin. There are still some traits that show there used to be people living. It feels like some broken TVs and small puppets left here tell you some sad stories. Maybe, it’s the biggest attraction for “Haikyo-maniac”those who like abandoned places.

Head to Gunkan Island by the ferry

Gunkan Island, the bustling coal mine; From prosperity to abandonment in the space of a breath

Gunkan Island, originally uninhabited, started development in full swing at the end of the 19th century. Because coal, so precious at that time, could be harvested in abundance there, landfill construction, mining equipment, and living arrangement came to be prepared.

In line with Japan’s rapid modernization, Gunkan Island accomplished rapid development. Along with infrastructure like elementary and middle schools, hospitals, and the like, restaurants and cinemas were also set up, and the island even came to function as a wholly independent city. Come the mid-20th century, the island had swollen to a population of 5000 people. With a population density nine times that of Tokyo at the time, it was able to boast being world’s number one in terms of growth.

Gunkan Island

However, the prosperity was not to continue long. Primary energy shifted from coal to oil. The coal industry shifted completely and became a sunset industry In 1974, the mine was shut down and the island became a ghost town. Until tour facilities were set up in 2009, not a single soul had entered the island.


There is a fear of collapse due to the aged buildings.

Currently Gunkan Island is transforming into a tourist destination. That being said, there are times when, depending on the weather, no one can enter the island owing to concerns of building collapse. We recommend confirming beforehand. It’s about one hour by car from Nagasaki Airport to Nagasaki Port where a ferry awaits. Going 17 kilometers offshore from there, you’ll arrive at a place isolated from the rest of the world.

The total lack of human presence, the half-destroyed buildings, the encompassing ocean, the remnants of those once here… only a mysterious atmosphere lingers in the air. Gunkan Island rushed through the tumult of modernization, unmoving in the stream of time, and was abandoned. For us, who will live through the coming future, what is felt at this island is not at all something irrelevant.


11−22 Motofunamachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture

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Address 11−22 Motofunamachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture
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Access 10 min walk from Nagasaki station
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